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Nursing students in Helena train for mass casualty situation

Nursing students in Helena train for mass casualty situation
Posted at 6:32 PM, Apr 30, 2024

HELENA — Carroll College nursing students are being challenged with a mass casualty simulation to give them hands-on experience.

"The book learning that you do in nursing school and the actual application, I think that's one of the hardest disconnects when I'm going into my clinicals. I think it's just such an important aspect of getting your hands on and learning," said Lorenzo Sobolewski, a senior nursing student at Carroll College.

He is one of 40 students who are participating in this year's mock mass casualty event, which simulates a terrorist attack on the capital.

Sobolewski said, "There's just so much going on. I'm running out to go help someone and there's three other people screaming, 'We need some help over here.' It's hard to prioritize, and that's why the triaging is such an important thing to go over in school."

Sobolewski with volunteer victim

Triaging is one of the main aspects of the simulation. Students have to decide which victims need medical attention first.

"You triage out in the field to get them to the hospital, and then you triage again because conditions can change during transport," said Sobolewski.

Two groups of students are split between the simulated attack grounds and a simulated hospital.

Carroll hospital

They have to decide what injuries each victim may have and discuss them with an instructor.

Sobolewski said, "I've never seen someone with oral burns, and their airway is going to close up, but when I was out there, and I got to triage someone with that – I can think back to this experience and be ready for it."

This year is the second Carroll College has put on a mock mass casualty event for nursing students.

Simulated ICU in hospital

The event was brought to the school by nursing professor Kate Pieper.

She said, "I chose a terrorist attack at the capital strictly because there is a variety of wounds we can simulate."

Theater student

She wanted to give her students the opportunity to have experience with what they have learned.

"Being able to think in the moment and respond calmly and collectively is absolutely key when there is chaos going on around you," she said.

Roughly 80 volunteers from the community came out to play the part of victims or teach the students about the role of law enforcement or trauma-informed care from social workers.

Students acting as victims

The nursing department partnered with the theater department for injury makeup and actors.

Sobolewski said, "It looked real, like the lady with the fork in her neck. I was like, 'She's got a fork in her neck.'"

Student with a fork in her neck

The event will wrap up with a debrief of the simulation led by Carroll's master of social work department.

You can find more information about the mass casualty event here.